Dandelion

Taraxacum o f f i c i

Dandelion is a wonderful food as well as a beneficial medicine. It supports overall health by gently working to improve the functioning of the liver, gallbladder, and urinary and digestive systems. It is excellent for cleansing the skin.

Next time you spend an hour removing dandelions from your garden or lawn, turn them into medicine instead of throwing them out, and rejoice in the fact that they will always grow back!

Asteraceae (Compositae) Daisy family

Description: A familiar weed of lawns, with bright yellow flowers, seed "clocks," a bitter white latex in the stem, and a long tap root.

Habitat: Lawns, fields, and roadside verges.

Distribution: Worldwide in temperate zones.

Related species: Taraxacum officinale is actually a group of several hundred plants. These are divided into nine sections and are very difficult to distinguish. The most common dandelions belong to the Ruderalia section. They are all safe medicinal plants. In Chinese medicine, T. mongolicum is used to clear heat and toxicity.

Parts used: Leaves, roots, flowers, and sap.

Dandelions: where to begin? They do so much! They were once much used in Britain as a spring tonic, and still are in Europe. In the US fresh dandelion leaves for salads was a three-million-dollar-a-year industry in 1999.

Dandelions have followed European settlers around the world, though it is probably native in China and most of Asia. Most people know them as lawn weeds, but we're prepared to upset the gardeners to say: consider the benefits of a lawn of brightly blooming dandelions. Can grass give you salad, tasty fritters, wine, a coffee substitute, tea, useful medicine and more besides?

This plant is almost indestructible: it is a perennial and, unusually, it is self-fertilizing; its deep tap roots make it hard to dig out, and any pieces left will regenerate. Its seeds soar miles on little parachutes, whether or not helped by children playing the "clock" game. It flowers almost all year long.

Any amount of mowing, herbicide, and flamethrowing fail to eradicate this sunny plant from the garden. Really, you'll be happier if you view dandelions as a culinary and medicinal gift, a superb "cut and come again" crop, rather than as an annoying weed!

An old companion of man, it has accumulated many names. Blowball and telltime refer to the seeds, priest's crown to the stem after the seeds have flown, and swine's snout to the unopened flower. And "dandelion" itself? The "teeth of the lion" (dent de lion) explanation, from the appearance of the sawedged leaves or perhaps the tiny florets, is found in many languages. But there is also a case made for an older link to the sun.

In many cultures the lion has been the animal symbol of the sun since antiquity, as in the astrological sign Leo. Dandelions are yellow disks, like the sun, and open and close along with it. So, perhaps

It is very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the distempers that arise therefrom, jaundice and the hypochondriacal passion. It wonderfully opens the urinary tract.

the old name might mean "rays of the sun" rather than "teeth of the lion"? In any case the Chinese, who have long used the dandelion, have even better names for it: two are "yellow-flowered earthnail" and

"golden hairpin weed.'

An ancient connection with man: dandelions at Avebury henge in England in April

Chinese Herbs

Chinese Herbs

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